Forest of Spirits – S.J. Sanders


Turan smiled as she strolled her beloved gardens. Cyprus was as eternal and constant as she was. All year round, it bloomed with the sweetest of flowers. Not the mortal island—though she bestowed considerable favors upon that sacred land—but her own divine domain that rose from the great cosmic ocean. This Cyprus, her birthplace, had been sung of and praised by poets from Hellas, Etruria, and Rome.

Plucking a flower, she brushed it fondly against her cheek. She loved each of the names she had been honored by. Each one was as unique and precious as the bloom she held in her hand. It mattered little to her if she was called Ouranian Aphrodite, the seaborn, Turan, the action which gives, or Venus, the very spirit of love and beauty. She cherished each of them even as she cherished the multitude of children she bore. Nothing gave her more pleasure than being a mother. The Etruscans had recognized this when they called her Ati: mother and queen.

A mother of Erotes, Cupids, many nymphs and spirits, even a mother of mortals, she loved all her children. For that reason, she interfered more than she probably should. She personally considered her interferences to be a good thing. There were a few incidents… Troy was not to be spoken of, though it had a far nobler purpose than what the common understanding of myths gave creed, and Eros still held a grudge over her guidance with Psyche, but overall things worked out well.

That was also why she had been unable to still her hand when the gates between Aites, the underworld, and the human world flung open wide. She had placed the woman, the key to ending the plague of infernal spirits, in the path of the gatekeeper. She had then sent her beloved son to assist them when their situation was most dire. She meddled only slightly, but it had been enough to save the world for the time being.

Unfortunately, her meddling couldn’t stop the dangers that would come. There was a new hope, a promise of a new time to unfold, but such changes did not come without a cost. The matching of a human soul to an infernal spirit had been the first of many changes that would impact the cosmos. There would not be a single realm that would remain untouched. It had been bound to happen. All things were cyclic. Nothing remained the same forever. One era was preparing to slip into another, and the tremors could already be felt.

Her mind drifted to her son. The silvani lucomo had served her well, though he had been reluctant to get involved. He disliked her tendency to meddle more than most of her children did. She wondered what he would think of her latest involvement. Her lips quirked as she recalled the image that he had made as she had looked upon him—the arrogance and hardness of him.

When she put things into motion to draw his mate to him, she hadn’t seen the darkness rising in the Eternal Forest. He was going to need his mate more than he ever would have realized. The dove would do its part, but Turan needed to move their meeting along.

Crushing the flower in her hand, she plucked a sphere from the air around her and called up the image of a huntress who lived alone at the edge of the woods. Lifting the crushed petals to her lips, Turan breathed them over the sphere. The woman stilled, her head turning, and Turan smiled.

“Hurry, my dear. He’s waiting for you,” she whispered as a soft humming vibrated in her throat, spinning the first songs of desire. That small encouragement was all that would be needed.

A touch was all it took.

Chapter 1

The woods themselves were alive in a way that was beyond all modern reckoning. They had been that way ever since the wulkwos ravaged the world, throwing the worlds of men and spirits back together. Things still lurked in the world. Ancient creatures that had been half-forgotten as human civilization grew. Since the mist came, the things of nightmares and legends returned, and people began recounting the old lore of spirits and monsters, but not as happy bedtime stories for children. The old tales were darker and far more complex, of the other worlds that men did not dare pass into. It was whispered about among those who knew, that the wild places were full of predatory eyes and teeth.

Don’t go into the woods. People disappear